The book encompasses all of Einstein's life, from a child to a famous physicist. The book encompasses all of Einstein's life, from a child to a famous physicist. The book encompasses all of Einstein's life, from a child to a famous physicist. (Photo: Nobrow)

Einstein gets graphic in new biography

A new comic book dives into the depths of the famed physicist's life and science.

Albert Einstein is one of the most famous scientists of the 20th century. “Einstein's face is the most recognizable face worldwide,” says Hanoch Gutfreund, the director of the Albert Einstein archives at Hebrew University in Israel, a school the physicist helped establish.

But his life probably still holds a lot of mysteries for most people. Einstein’s life – and his life’s work in science – awaits readers in the new hardcover biography, "Einstein," told in comic-book format by writer Corinne Maier and artist Anne Simon. It’s the third collaboration by the duo, following similar biographies of Einstein contemporaries Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud.

A screen grab from the new book.A screen grab from the new book. (Photo: Nobrow)

Originally published last year in France, the book has already been translated and reprinted around the world, most recently hitting the English language market through U.S. publisher Nobrow Press. Simon will be doing a book tour of the East Coast this month.

The graphic novel not only condenses Einstein’s fairly complex life into a compact 72 pages, it also uses the cartooning format to explain some of Einstein’s most famous scientific research, including the theory of relativity, through a series of artistic metaphors. Einstein’s cartoon form sometimes skateboards or surfs through these pages, a symbol of how quickly his ideas traveled through his brain and the world at large.

Whimsical images like this one of Einstein skateboarding appear throughout the book.Whimsical images like this one of Einstein skateboarding appear throughout the book. (Photo: Nobrow)

“I had the idea that Einstein was an artist,” Maier tells From The Grapevine, explaining how they decided to visualize his theories. “He imagined a world that had nothing to do with traditional representations. So Anne and I, we tried to put images on it. It is a kind of translation, if you want.” With this book, she says, “Einstein’s universe can be seen as a dreamlike fantasy.”

Maier says she found Einstein to be such a fascinating figure. “His kind of craziness appeals to me,” she says. “Not craziness in a medical meaning, of course, but Einstein is trying to find the key to the universe, trying to elaborate the formula that would explain everything. I find that tremendously daring.”

The 72-page book was originally published in French before being translated to English.The 72-page book was originally published in French before being translated to English. (Photo: Nobrow)

She was also struck by how Einstein was frequently caught between contradictory sides of science and politics. “He is a sorcerer’s apprentice,” she tells us. “He fights for peace, but has contributed – without knowing it – to creating the most powerful bomb that has ever existed. His fate escapes him, and in that sense, he is a tragic hero, in the manner of a Greek tragedy. I think that is what makes him interesting for the reader today.”

Although "Einstein" the book seems fairly short, it’s actually densely packed with information and drama. Maier and Simon cover the physicist’s upbringing in Germany, his difficulty containing himself to the rigors of the Swiss educational system and his despair over the development of the atomic bomb, based on his own research.

These are all heady subjects, but Maier and Simon cover them with a light touch, drawing out the intelligence, passion, pain and whimsy of the Father of Relativity. It’s a remarkable book about a man who revealed some of the mysteries of the universe but whose life still holds many mysteries many years after his passing.

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